{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: Always On Pointe

I’ve been going to see The Nutcracker ballet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver every year since I was 3 years old, and after over 30 years of Sugar Plum Fairy-twirling, soldier sword-yielding, mouse menacing, and ringleted ballerina dreaming, people often wonder what keeps me going back for more – year after year.


My oldest daughter and I – off to see The Nutcracker

The truth is, each year’s performance is like a brand new experience for me. While the music has remained the same since the first adaptation of the story in 1891, Tchaikovsky’s familiar Nutcracker Suite perfectly compliments the ever-evolving choreography that accompanies the classical Christmas ballet.

I love that Ballet BC brings in guest ballet companies each year to perform their own rendition of The Nutcracker. Last year, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised guests with Canadian-themed twists, and this year, Alberta Ballet returned with some surprises of their own.

The choreography, led by Edmund Stripe, was sophisticated and stunning, yet it preserved the youthful liveliness of the children’s tale. As in previous years, the performance featured over 80 young dancers from dance schools across the Lower Mainland, but this year the tiny dancers were brought to the forefront of several scenes, performing technically-challenging steps seamlessly and with contagious enthusiasm that lit up the stage.

Alberta Ballet The Nutcracker local students DSC_2193

Local dancers rehearsing for Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The sets and costumes, designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, brought an elevated level of drama and realism to the stage this year, featuring lifelike costumes, sparkling snowflakes, and comedic whimsy to characters like the grandfather, who merrily trotted across the stage with a bouncing head of silver locks that had the crowd bellowing with laughter.

Alexandra Gibson played the role of Clara in the opening performance, and her exuberant acting and technically-sharp dancing made her character believable and engaging throughout the performance. I recognized Alex from previous Alberta Ballet performances (along with her identical twin sister Jennifer who shared the stage), yet her performance this year seemed to have an elevated level of energy and maturity.

Company Dancers in Alberta Ballet's The Nutcracker 6893

When the Sugar Plum Fairy glided across the stage, shimmying effortlessly en pointe in her sparkling gown, I immediately recognized the dancer as Christiana Bennett, a prima ballerina who had danced with Ballet West (and starred in a ballet-themed reality show Breaking Pointe in 2012).  Christiana shone brightly, proving to be an asset to the highly-acclaimed Canadian dance company.

This year’s performance of The Nutcracker was astounding, a can’t-miss holiday event for both seasoned ballet enthusiasts and first-timers alike.

Lucky for you, tickets are still available for the remaining dates:

December 30th @ 2pm & 7:30pm

December 31st @ 2pm



Is Elf on the Shelf The New Santa?

If you were to say to me, “I have a great idea. I’m going to design a creepy little elf made of felt with a cheap plastic head. People will buy it, and put it in different places around their homes. Parents will warn their kids that the elf is watching them on Santa’s behalf, to determine if they will be on the naughty or nice list.” You know what I would say? “You’re fricken crazy.”

And that’s why I’m not a millionaire.

Who would have thought that this little creepy character would become a multi-million dollar company ($16.6 million in 2011*). Since its launch in 2005, the little story about an elf has become an international phenomenon. And I’m left feeling envious of their success. Why didn’t I think of that?

I first heard about The Elf on the Shelf  in 2010 through a blog that I follow regularly – and then through Twitter – where moms were going crazy posting pictures of their elves in various scenarios. I will never buy into that marketing ploy I thought to myself.

The following year (and $30 later), I had one of my very own. Darn peer-pressure.

At first it was fun – my kids were so excited about having their very own elf! They named him Taylor, and woke up every morning eager to find Taylor the elf in a new location. After 4 days, I was done. I couldn’t think of new places to put him, and I kept forgetting to move him. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, CRAP, I haven’t moved Taylor! I’d shuffle out of my warm bed, and feel my way around the house looking for a new spot, all the while cursing the little elf.

When Christmas morning arrived, I was almost more excited about Taylor the elf’s return to the North Pole, than I was about Christmas itself!

A year later, and Taylor’s back. And for some reason, I seem to have fallen even deeper into the persuasion of mommy trends. Not only did the elf come out earlier this time around, but I’ve become obsessed with finding new things to do with him. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blog posts – the net is swimming with photos of elves doing flour snow-angels, and bathing in mini marshmallow baths. There’s even a whole underground trend of posting photos of elves in R-rated scenarios – threesomes with Barbies and beer-bonging with fellow toy friends.

Sun-bathing in the oven, sleeping in the doll house,
reading stories to the toys, and playing with Cheerios

My kids seem to be more excited about their little elf friend than they are about Santa. SANTA for crying out loud.

Yes, I’ve become a little elf-crazy this season. But why not? It gives me another way to discipline my kids, and it works. Besides, I might as well get my money’s worth, right?New Year’s resolution: come up with an idea that becomes more popular than Santa.

Have you bought into the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon?